Hannah Grae: “I wanted to take over the world. I still want to”

She wants to take over the world. Give her a chance, and she just might. Back with new track ‘Screw Loose’, HANNAH GRAE isn’t afraid to dream big. Check out the latest cover story for our New Music Friday playlist edit, The Cut.

Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Frances Beach.

Hannah Grae makes big, dramatic rock songs that refuse to minimise her emotions. Debut single ‘Propaganda’ rebels against beauty standards with a snarling bite, her brilliant ‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’ record is a bombastic collection of revenge, fury and isolation while hammering new single ‘Screw Loose’ sees her fighting with her own head. “I just don’t ever want to be embarrassed about how I feel,” she explains. “If I’m feeling petty, bratty or confused, that’s what I’ll write about.”

Right now, though, Hannah is feeling nothing but excitement. She’s about to head out on a two-week European festival tour that’ll see her play the likes of Sziget, Pukkelpop and Rock En Seine before appearing at Reading & Leeds. Not bad, considering she only played her first outdoor gig in May. Hannah already knows what every festival stage will look like, thanks to an evening sat on Google, and has just one day to crochet eleven different hats inspired by the flags of each country she’ll be visiting. During each set, she’ll throw one into the audience, but for now, it’s a way for her to wrap her head around exactly how momentous this summer is turning out to be.

It’s made more special because, for a long time, Hannah really wasn’t sure if things were going to happen.

Growing up, Hannah believed music only existed within the worlds of film, TV and theatre. She loved Hannah Montana and had her mind blown when she discovered Justin Bieber as a ten-year-old. Her original plan was to work in musical theatre, but then she saw an episode of Friends where Phoebe Buffay writes a song, which sparked something within her. Hannah wrote her own “ridiculous” track called ‘The Chicken Song’ and would play it constantly. “I just loved creating something from nothing and playing it to people.” She carried on doing that throughout her teenage years, writing stripped-down, piano-led pop songs based on stories and suggestions sent in by her blossoming YouTube following. A rejection from theatre school coincided with her first proper studio session, and she quickly realised playing her own music is all she really wanted to do.

From there, she started posting rock-inspired covers and reworkings on TikTok as she chased what felt good and set about figuring out how to bring that untethered joy to her own music. In 2021, she shared an updated version of Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ featuring pointed lyrics like “they think that they can stare, undress me anywhere. ‘It’s just romantic, stop being dramatic’.” It quickly racked up millions of views on YouTube and TikTok.

“It was weird because nothing like that had ever happened to me before,” she explains. “I read every single comment, and I got really emotional because I felt this strange sense of responsibility knowing I was responsible for the conversations that were taking place. I think people wanted to share their own stories and experiences, and they saw that video as a safe space for that.”

After seeing the impact that sharing something so honest had with others, Hannah started writing the super personal, super direct songs that she’s known for today. “I’m so proud of how brutally honest I am in my songs now. And I’m only getting more confident in doing that,” she teases, her background in musical theatre giving her permission to not hold anything back and removing any fear about being “too much”.

Hannah Grae’s ambitious, nine-track ‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’ was released earlier this year. Inspired by Paramore, My Chemical Romance, Queen and Taylor Swift, the record sees her revisit her shitty high school experiences with all the swaggering, disruptive attitude of Mean Girls. “I wanted it to feel like a movie,” she explains, with a focus on worldbuilding as well as killer songs.

“School was a really tough time for me, but I always knew I’d get my revenge someday, somehow,” she grins. The entire process was a cathartic one, offering Hannah a much-needed sense of closure. It also gave others a chance to “scream about their feelings at the top of their lungs,” she explains. The entire project was written before Hannah had ever played a proper gig. “Seeing people’s faces and just knowing which moments hit, that was a really important thing that I took into writing this next era.”

And that next chapter starts today with ‘Screw Loose’. According to Hannah, the fiery, twisting track sits well with ‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’ but is also quite different. “I’m not worried about that, though; it’s exactly what I wanted to say in this moment.”

Still imbued with the theatrical might of what’s come before, the track also features the angst and humour of early Green Day with Weezer’s emo slacker anthem ‘The Sweater Song’ another big inspiration.

“School was a really tough time for me, but I always knew I’d get my revenge someday, somehow”

Hannah Grae

“When I wrote ‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’, there was a clear story, and it was all written in hindsight,” explains Hannah, who approached each song wanting to make something she needed to hear. “This second endeavour was written in real-time, as Hannah moved to London in January 2022 to pursue a career in music.

For some, that shift wouldn’t be as much of a gamble, but for Hannah, it meant she was the first person in her family to ever move away from Wales. While both her mum and dad worked in creative fields (drama teacher and film, respectively), she still had to promise them it was just a gap year and she’d return to education if things didn’t work out. “Oh, I always knew I was never going to go to uni,” she grins today.

Hannah soon found herself sitting in her cold room of a house she shared with strangers in an unknown city, questioning her decisions. “I’d spent so long dreaming of living in London, and I’d been so excited to get out there and chase my dreams, but I just felt lost,” she explains. “‘Screw Loose’ is about that feeling.”

“No matter what you do with your life, you probably feel confused about it at some point,” starts Hannah. “Isn’t it weird that if I had listened to my parents and gone to uni, I’d have just finished, and I’d probably be asking myself, ‘What do I do now?'”

This upcoming project might be more eclectic than what’s come before, but the themes are altogether “darker and less blind” than what Hannah has previously explored. “It’s got way more perspective,” she explains. “Life hit me hard over the past year, and I realised it wasn’t all roses. It’s actually quite a sad collection of songs.”

While ‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’ offered empowerment and giddy catharsis around every corner, Hannah isn’t sure you’ll finish listening to this next record and feel excited. “It’s more a picture of a really bad time in someone’s life. Hopefully, if anyone has gone or is going through that, they’ll feel seen. That’s all you need sometimes.”

Hannah’s spent this festival season sharing the bill with artists like Dylan, Nieve Ella and Maisie Peters, who make unapologetic guitar-driven anthems. “I’m so inspired by all those women. I love seeing that feminine energy in something that is usually quite masculine. It’s just so powerful,” she explains. “They’re all so lovely as well; it feels like a big community.”

Her ambitions haven’t changed since she released ‘Propaganda’, though. “They were always quite unrealistic,” she grins. “I wanted to take over the world. I still want to, as well. I do get lost in my ambition,” she admits. “But I think you need to be a little bit delusional if you want to do this.”

For the moment, Hannah is focusing on giving each new song its own moment and has her sights set on playing some headline shows. “All I really want is to be in a room full of people singing my lyrics back to me, who find something meaningful in them. I think a lot of us feel like we’re on the outside of something,” she adds. “I want to create something that feels inclusive.”

“I also want to prove to people they can do things they’ve been told they can’t do. And that it can be fun.” ■

Hannah Grae’s new single ‘Screw Loose’ is out now. Follow Dork’s The Cut Spotify playlist here.